Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ten White Men in a Row

A testosterone-hyped field of 10 white men went mano a mano on the Iraq war and torture last night in their debate battle for the GOP nomination . With a couple of refreshing exceptions.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas (who, by the way, has a corn dog's chance at the Iowa State Fair of getting a bite on the nomination) stood his lonely ground by denouncing the decision to go to war in Iraq, the use of torture and even suggested that terrorists actions like 9/11 were in part in retaliation for the United States' actions in the world, saying "If we ignore that, we ignore that at our risk."

This gave the question-dodging and debate-floundering America's mayor, Rudy Giuliani, the opening he needed for chest thumping, challenging Paul's statement as an "absurd explanation for September 11." We know what Paul was trying to say, but this forum wanted napalm in the morning.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona also rejected the use of torture explaining he's been there and had that done unto him.... and, the thing that kept him and his fellow POW's going was the fact that their country wasn't like that. Of course, McCain stayed with his support of the surge in Iraq, at this point he really has no choice.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee delivered the best zinger, joking that in recent years Congress had "spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop." This campaign season the GOP will make sure that Edwards keeps paying for his $400 haircut.

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, was articulate, polished, knowledgeable and well.... perfect. I could hear the casting call. Would someone please put a big spot on his tie?

Former governor James Gilmore, as a poll bottom-feeder, tried to make points by challenging the true conservatism of McCain, Giuliani and Romney. They easily dodged his barbs and he faded once again into the Virginia countryside.

Rep.Tom Tancredo of Colorado delivered the second best zinger aimed at his GOP rivals changing positions... "I trust those conversions when they happen on the road to Damascus, not on the road to Des Moines." But strangely, he gave a shallow reply on a question about illegal immigration, his calling card. It didn't turn out to be a trump.

A glib Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas put on a good performance, but it seemed a performance.

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California was on point on defense issues and immigration. His concise responses were refreshing.

And that leaves only Elmer Fudd, the former Wisconsin gov Tommy Thompson, who seemed to be down-shifted to low gear.... upstaged perhaps by the other Thompson, Fred, the Thompson the GOP electorate is panting for although he has yet to announce, let alone debate. According to the latest polls, Fred is even eating into Giuliani's leading position.

I had predicted, and anticipated, that a debate sponsored by FOX News and hosted by Brit Hume would be one long GOP commercial, all softballs and no substance. I was wrong. It was the best debate by either party so far, although probably partly because the candidates are becoming better at it. And mixing it up a bit.

I also looked for the 10 white men to trip over each other in expressing their sympathy over the death that day of Rev. Jerry Falwell who spearheaded the Moral Majority winning GOP strategy. But wisely, Hume nipped that rush in the bud at the outset of the debate by expressing their unified regret so the candidates wouldn't need to do so individually.

The other no-show thus far in the GOP field is former House speaker Newt Gingrich who is dangling the "great possibility" of his candidacy. At least his timing may be propitious, he is slated to deliver the commencement address at Falwell's university on Saturday.... there could be no better center stage than before a grieving GOP base.

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